Louis van Gaal saw his hand forced on Saturday, with Manchester United entering a Premier League home date with Crystal Palace with their ranks severely depleted by injury – particularly at the back.
There must have been a temptation to slot the versatile Michael Carrick in at centre-half, with the position not entirely unnatural to him and his experience most useful alongside teenage academy graduate Patrick McNair.
United were, however, to drop summer signing Daley Blind into their defensive unit, with the Dutchman equally adept at the heart of a back four as he is the middle of midfield.
The move made sense, with the fact that Blind is left footed helping to bring balance to those deployed in front of David de Gea.
With Marcos Rojo sidelined with a dislocated shoulder, the most logical solution is to find a like-for-like replacement.
Having acquired considerable experience in a holding role, Blind is comfortable on the ball, strong in the challenge and able to pick a pass.
Tweaking his position also helps to bring the best out of Carrick by playing to his strengths.
He may well be comfortable controlling an offside trap, but United would prefer to see him trying to spring them at the opposite end of the field.
The level of control he enjoyed against Palace at Old Trafford suggests that Van Gaal was spot on to introduce the 33-year-old in the ‘quarterback’ role, with the most being made of his vision and creative instincts.
|Match||Duel Won||Won Tackle||Total Tackle||Accurate Pass||Total Pass||Fwd Pass||Interception||Touches||Mins Played|
|Michael Carrick||Man Utd vs C. Palace||8||3||4||95||107||34||1||120||90|
|Daley Blind||Man Utd vs West Ham||7||3||4||48||60||17||0||73||90|
|Daley Blind||Leicester vs Man Utd||7||2||3||42||49||13||8||70||90|
|Daley Blind||West Brom vs Man Utd||6||2||4||69||74||14||2||92||90|
|Daley Blind||Man Utd vs Everton||5||2||2||44||50||8||2||66||90|
|Daley Blind||Man Utd vs QPR||5||2||2||107||112||19||2||122||90|
|Daley Blind||Man City vs Man Utd||5||4||4||47||51||14||1||63||90|
|Daley Blind||Man Utd vs Chelsea||4||2||3||50||58||16||4||71||90|
|Daley Blind||Man Utd vs C. Palace||4||1||1||69||74||17||2||87||90|
|Michael Carrick||Man City vs Man Utd||2||1||1||17||21||7||1||30||47|
The key areas to note are that Carrick prevailed in more duels than Blind has managed in any outing this season, suggesting that he is better equipped to put his foot in and fend off opponents.
The number of forward passes played over the course of a productive 90 minutes also stands out – as United look to get on the front foot - with Blind’s best efforts almost doubled.
Carrick’s sheer number of passes, along with his accuracy, cannot be ignored either, especially when you consider that he has been short on game time this season and that his efforts on Saturday helped to eke out a gritty 1-0 win – rather than the comfortable 4-0 waltz past Queens Park Rangers in which Blind shone brightest.
All in all, United would appear to have found a formula which works during a testing period and, with stability and continuity crucial as they work their way back towards the top four, you get the feeling that further tweaks could do more damage to Van Gaal’s cause than good.